horse racing

What we learned from the weekend: 15th, 16th & 17th of February…


WWLFTW returns after the unexpected equine flu hiatus and just in time I’d say, with only THREE WEEKS to go until the 2019 Cheltenham Festival!!Β 

Not sure where the first seven weeks of 2019 disappeared to but one thing is for certain, it’s been a bloody bumpy ride!!

Cold snaps, fast ground, flu outbreaks, extra flu shots needed, interrupted festival preps left, right and centre!! Not been a quiet seven weeks that’s for sure!

Here’s what caught my eye from the most recent round of weekend action…

What we learned from the weekend: 15th, 16th & 17th of February…

1. CLAN DES OBEAUX confirmed himself as a serious Cheltenham Gold Cup contender…

…or did he?

You can’t fault his performance in the re-scheduled Denman Chase on Saturday at Ascot but in fairness he was only really winning in the manner he should have been, given his superiority over the others. He’s clearly an extremely talented chaser and something has really clicked with him this season, the master that is Paul Nicholls has obviously found the key to him and the 7yo is now really starting to fulfill his potential.

Personally I’m a big supporter of the horse and I’m always a fan of the King George/Savills Chase form when it comes to the Gold Cup in March, it’s regularly been a solid pointer for chasing’s blue riband event.

The Denman Chase has also been a solid pointer/warm-up event for Gold Cup champions and with Clan Des Obeaux having both races comfortably in his back pocket this season it’s not hard to make a case for him capturing the big one next month.

My issue, however, is that the Denman Chase was re-scheduled this season, moving it a week closer to the Gold Cup and as such moving Clan Des Obeaux out of the prime DSLR (Days Since Last Run) trend that ALL of the last 21 Gold Cup winners have passed.

Consider this…

If you look at the last 21 renewals of the Gold Cup then you see that 79 horses have lined up to have a crack at the Gold Cup off a break of 32 days or less and ALL 79 have been beaten, a list that includes Kauto Star in 2008 (when going for his second Gold Cup, after having run in the Ascot Chase as his warm-up) and Long Run in 2012 (also when going for his second Gold Cup, after having run in the re-scheduled Denman Chase as his warm-up), both started as favs for those Gold Cups…

The Gold Cup is no walk in the park, you need to be at your optimum to land the race and there are simply no hiding places round the demanding 3m2.5f trip.

Is 27 days (the DSLR period that Clan Des Obeaux will have between the Denman Chase and the Gold Cup) a long enough recovery period for one of the most demanding races on the calendar?

Recent history suggests it’s not ideal…

On the flip side to that I guess we can argue that this has not been, for various reasons, a standard run-up period to the Festival and yes, there may be trends being busted here and there over the four days.

It should also be pointed out that the DSLR stat is the only Gold Cup race trend he falls down on (on my trends anyway).

Nevertheless it’s tasty enough stat and if you are looking for any chinks in his armour, that may just be it…

Can Clan Des Obeaux overturn that DSLR stat and land the Gold Cup?


2. AL DANCER forced himself to the head of the Supreme market with an impressive victory in the Betfair Hurdle…

…and there is no doubting that he’s a horse on the up after his 3.75L saunter in the re-arranged Betfair Hurdle.

But is he the correct favourite for the Supreme?

Especially when you consider the following trend…

The last 49 horses to line up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle off the back of running in a Handicap have ALL BEEN BEATEN.

0/49 | 0% S/R | -Β£49.00 LSP – W&P 7/49 | 14% S/R

That stretches back to the last 21 renewals.

It’s the same in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle as well…

0/41 | 0% S/R | -Β£41.00 LSP – W&P 2/41 | 5% S/R

In fact if you look at ALL Grade 1 hurdle races at the Cheltenham Festival (since 2000) and consider those horses that ran in Handicap contests on their last start then you get the following…

2/198 | 1% S/R – 75% below expectation

(anyone guess those two winners without using a database? Clue:Winners came in 2016 & 2004)

The facts are that coming into a Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 off the back of a Handicap start has not been a fruitful route, even more so in the novice divisions.

AL DANCER has taken such a route and he’s sitting as 7/2 fav for the Supreme… πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”

Add in the fact that Fakir D’Oudairies is sitting as second fav and only one 4yo has won the race since 1973 (and none in the past 18 years, albeit not that many have tried) then the Supreme does suddenly start to look pretty open…

Does AL DANCER have the tools to banish that last time out Handicap stat? 


3. KALASHNIKOV again failed to fire at the top level…

I have previously mentioned, in various locations, that I was becoming concerned by the fact that Amy Murphy’s stable-star had been beaten every time he’d run at G1 & G2 level, especially when you considered his unbeaten form line of 6 from 6 at G3 level & below. 

Given that he is now 0/4 at the top 2 levels I think it’s fair to say that there are just signs that he is maybe a shade below the very top of the tree.

He was relatively easily brushed aside on Friday in the re-arranged Kingmaker Chase (albeit by what looks like an extremely talented horse in Glen Forsa) and I feel his only real hope of making any sort of impact at G1 or G2 level is to step him up in trip to 2m4f/5f distances, to see if that allows him to fulfill his early promise.

Ultimately, however, I’m begin to worry that he just isn’t going to make into a full on graded chaser, although he could, if he keeps coming up short in graded races for the remainder of the season, be of interest for something like the BetVictor Gold Cup (handicap chase) next season.

If he continues to put in similar performances to his Kingmaker Chase effort and his Wayward Lad Chase run then he could well start next season on a mark in the mid-140’s and that would, to some degree, make him of interest in handicaps.

As for capturing a Graded Chase before this season is out…I’d be dubious…

Can Kalashnikov save his season with a spring festival victory?

Ben (NTF)

*Majority of stats sourced from the excellent Proform professional database

26 responses to “What we learned from the weekend: 15th, 16th & 17th of February…”

  1. Hi All,
    Great blog again, Ben.
    Interesting that you referred to Kalashnikov failing to cut it in the chasing ranks, more because it reminded me of an article you wrote way back yonder in October last year about horses spending 2years hurdling before going chasing…
    Generally it’s a bad idea, and that does seem to have held up this year!
    Told you that you were right more than you were wrong, didn’t I?.
    I have no idea about the gold cup this year, do will probably stick to last year’s pick of Annabel Fly, ew at a big price, certainly a good run LTO,over an inadequate 2-1/2 miles.
    Keep up the good work, and looking forward to the free guide(s) coming soon.

    • Many thanks David

      There has been a couple of those ‘spend too long over hurdles’ chasers this season, more often than not it just seems to not work out for those guys, a fair few potentially decent chasers have not made the grade through the years because of such campaigning, always frustrating…

      Gold Cup is certainly turning into a bit of a conundrum this year, no doubt…

      Been working on the first free guide this evening and will hopefully have it out tomorrow or Thursday at the latest…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  2. That is a very damaging article to me since I had won in the betfair hurdle race at the weekend and prior to that race I had backed Al Dancer to win the supremes at a tasty 12/1 and was feeling very smug about it after Saturday’s result.
    I fear I may rethink my position after reading this but a great piece of analysis all the same


    • Hi David

      At the end of the day it is only one trend and you are holding a tasty ticket at 12-1 so no harm in letting that roll, you’ve certainly snagged plenty of value.

      It all depends on what else lines up as well although admittedly I would expect at least a couple to be rocking up with a stronger trends profile for the race that Al Dancer…

      Ben (NTF)

  3. Hi Ben I like Clan Des Obeaux as much as anything for the gold cup but recognise the DSLR stat ahead of the race. However it looked as though the horse didn’t have a hard race at Ascot and has only ran 3 times this season therefore it might get away with the negative stat?

    • Hi Raymond

      Not sure how hard the race was matters all that much as when Kauto Star won the Ascot Chase before being beaten in the Gold Cup (as mentioned in the example above) he had a pretty comfortable race that day, certainly nothing like a hard race. I think it’s more the fact that he raced and taken in a race so close to the Gold Cup and now has to be prepared in a time that the stats say is less than ideal.

      Doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t be done of course, and I’ve certainly not ruled out backing the horse myself, but it’s certainly something that needs strong consideration. As with all things it also depends on who else turns up for the race, but again I’d be surprised if there are not at least a couple with a stronger trend profile come the day….

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  4. The two Horses to win a Grade 1 Hurdle at The Festival after prepping in a Handicap are………….I think! :

    Iris’s Gift in 2004

    Unowhatimeanharry in 2016

    Both won the Stayers Hurdle

    • Michael


      Although Only Iris’s Gift was in the Stayers Hurdle, Unowhatimeanharry was in the Albert Bartlett, which I suppose is the stayers for the novices 😁

      Well done πŸ‘

      Ben (NTF)

    • Thanks Stuart

      Hmmmm….watering…just to add to this confusing start to the year we’ve had!!

      Let hope there is a good couple days unexpected rain the week before racing 🀞🀞🀞

      Ben (NTF)

  5. Good stuff as per Ben… just on the DSLR stat being a negative for CDO. As the Denman Chase was moved this year, running in that race has thus made it a negative for CDO, however as its an anomaly in that next year it will (hopefully) go back to its usual slot and all other previous runners of both races would not fall foul of the 32 day stat. It’s worth bearing in mind Native River won both races last year, Coneygree & Denman also won both and as such winning the race would be a bigger positive in my eyes than the 7 days less rest, especially on a relatively young horse with fewer battle scars. Interestingly, they are also hoping to run Presenting Percy this w/end somewhere so if that happens it that would mean 2 of the market leaders falling foul of the 32 DSLR stat.

    • Hi James

      Yeah running in the Denman Chase itself isn’t a negative, far from it in fact, but Long Run ran in a re-scheduled Denman Chase (also a week later than originally planned) and he then went on to get beat in the Gold Cup (as 7/4f) and I just feel there is something in the DSLR stat, the figures certainly suggest so.

      Fair point you make about him having less battle scars than most though, that could make his recovery easier.

      The other factor that needs considered, however, is that this reschedulement was at Ascot, not Newbury, and it could be that the tough Ascot tracks takes a bit more out of a horse than the ‘easier’ Newbury lay-out. Indeed Ascot has been a less than ideal warm-up track for those horse going over the longer distances at Cheltenham (3m+) – 2/65 since 2010…

      Again, doesn’t mean CDB can’t or won’t overturn that stat, just means it’s a negative that needs considered…

      Presenting Percy on the other hand…well he’ll be cutting it even finer if taking up his weekend engagement!!

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

    • Hi Simon

      He’s a good horse, no doubt about that, but the last time out handicap trend is a concern.

      He may of course be good enough to over-turn it, but if you are looking for something to go against him with, that’s as good a starting point as any!!

      Ben (NTF)

  6. More of a concern to me would be CDO’s stamina over the Gold Cup trip and also when he really has to slog it out up that final hill. In his younger days he certainly didn’t appear to be the doughtiest of battlers, though admittedly appears a reformed character on that front this year. Has he really matured and Nichols improved him that much that he will simply prove the best of the bunch this year and be able to actually quicken up that final hill just as he has quickened on his past 2 outings? His 2 main market rivals have not had their intended preps either, so all 3 have some degree of question marks against them. They are by far the 3 most likeliest winners though as their current form is simply superior to anything else in the race and I would not dream of considering backing anything else regardless of any stats or ground conditions.

    • Hi Hugh

      Yes, he doesn’t instantly strike you as one that would be happy to get down and dirty in a good old scrap to the line, doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t though and also, as you say, he may not have to, although you’d expect Native River to be in there digging away until the very last few yards, making it a good old war!

      Plenty of questions and ‘what if’s’ about the Gold Cup…which is one f the reason we love the puzzle that is horse racing!!

      Ben (NTF)

  7. Hi Ben

    As a CDO fan I’might now a tad concerned by your DSLR stat !!! but as you say there’s nothing to say he can’t overturn it . On that note something to consider. Last year’s Red Mills Chase which I believe was on the same day as Ascot every year? ( i.e within the preferred DSLR) was won by the sadly missed Another Duke from Presenting Percy . Another Duke was pulled up in the Gold Cup and Presenting Percy bolted up in the RSA normally an attritional our American friends would say ‘go figure’πŸ˜ƒ. As regards Al Dancer, My Tent Or Yours, Get Me Out Of Here and Kalashnikov all went close to winning the Supreme after winning the Betfair h’cap hurdle so maybe A.D can be the one to finally crack it!!…and yes I’ve backed him πŸ˜ƒπŸ‘πŸ‘
    Great stats keep up the good work. Richard

    • Hi Richard

      Get what you are saying about Our Duke and Presenting P from the Red Mills last year but the RSA is on the old course (Gold Cup on new) and 2 furlongs shorter and although it is perceived as an attritional race I’m not sure that’s actually the case, I’ve never viewed it as a race that ‘leaves a mark’, as the say.

      Stats also tell us that plenty of RSA winners had their last start within 30 days of winning the race so there does seem to be quite a difference in the two races (with regards to the DSLR stats).

      Definitely been a good few ‘handicappers’ that have gone close in the Supreme, as you rightly point out, but they always, somehow, find at least one too good on the day. Al Dancer could be the one to change that though, you never know…

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  8. Cdo major concern has to be its Cheltenham record? I’m on at 10’s but I can see it finding one too good. I can’t have presenting Percy at all, Kemboy and bellshill tick lots of boxes and could be a n ew play. Cracking food for thought as always

    • Hi Andrew

      Certainly have to consider his Cheltenham record but he does seem a markedly different horse this season, could be that he leaves his previous course form well behind…maybe…hard one to call…but yes, has to be a consideration.

      Presenting Percy just has to be taken on I feel, his price does not realistically reflect what he’s actually achieved…

      Fantastic puzzle in prospect 😁

      Ben (NTF)

  9. My ratings show Clan des Obeaux and Bristol de Mai as equal top.
    Clan des Obeaux is not; imho; a Cheltenham horse with 2262 figures and is a suspect left hander apart from the long uphill run in.
    Bristol de Mai beat CDO twice in completed races and though a faller LTO, has had a break of 70+ days. Jan ’18 wind-op should help and he has good experience over the Cheltenham distance. 33/1 +

    • Hi Edmund

      I think Bristol DM is likely to be a full trend scorer on my trends.

      Not full convinced by his Cheltenham credentials either in all honesty, albeit his first try at the Gold Cup was as a 6yo and he’s possibly now more ready for the challenge… πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  10. Hi Ben,I really like Laurina in CH but she will obviously fall down on the 24 dslr stat.What are your thoughts regarding her chances?

    • Morning Paul

      Yeah the DSLR is an obvious concern with her. She also falls down on the Champ Hurdle 15 year DSLR trend I have.

      I do like her but suspect at least a couple will have a stronger trend profile come the day (for all I’m far from ruling her out).

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

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